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A long-standing SAIT tradition took place in April as graduates of the 2018 aviation cohort added their signatures to the wing of a Schweizer glider.
The glider was built in 1946 and, during the 1950s, students at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (or PITA, as SAIT was known until 1960) modified it from an SGU 1-19 model to a 1-20. They added a longer set of wings to the fuselage, improving the glide ratio.
Constructed of wood and fabric with strut-braced wings and a steel tube and fabric fuselage, this basic one-person glider was used for early training. It was damaged in a stalled approach in 1965 and the right wing was destroyed.
In 1972, Darryl Snyder (AMT ’74) and his family joined with Merle Dippel to purchase the glider from the Cu Nim Gliding Club, located east of Black Diamond, Alta. Then Snyder and fellow student Mark Willdig reconstructed the wing and, in 2018, Snyder donated the resurrected CF-ZBS to SAIT.
“The signatures on the wing are symbolic of drawing the three aviation programs together,” Snyder says. “This glider was modified at SAIT and it was rebuilt at SAIT. It belongs at SAIT.” The glider is preserved at the Art Smith Aero Centre, where Simon Friesen (AMT ’18, bottom row, centre) was among the graduates signing its wing.
“I learned about the glider wing at the end of my first year when I saw those graduates signing it,” Friesen says. “Signing it means you’re starting a new chapter of your life, so it’s exciting.”
For Kerona Morris (AMT ’18, seen in the foreground, bottom left photo), writing your name on the wing “means you’ve stuck through all the trials and you’ve made it to the end. I would love to come back in 10 years to see more names added to the wing, and to look for mine!”
Sharon Wong (AMT ’18, bottom row, right) says signing the wing is a way of leaving part of herself at the school. “It’s not like I just used a locker — I actually made my mark in the school.”
Before she signed the wing, Wong also met Betty Ann Smith, widow of distinguished pilot Art Smith in whose honour SAIT’s aero centre was named. “It was the first time I made a connection to that history,” Wong says. “That’s meaningful, and it makes me proud of graduating from here.”